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New Jersey Court Awards Ten Years of Alimony after Nine Years of Marriage

The New Jersey Appellate Division has upheld an award of ten years of alimony payments following nine years or marriage, reaffirming established principles governing limited-duration alimony.

The decision in the case of J.E.V. v. K.V. was on appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey in Mercer County. The wife argued that the trial judge had erred by awarding her only limited duration alimony rather than permanent alimony.

On appeal, the court noted that limited duration alimony is based on the length of the marriage, the period of economic dependency during the marriage, and the skills and education needed for a spouse to return to the workforce. The marital lifestyle and the ability to replicate it are not overriding factors.

The parties were married in 1996. During their nine-year marriage they had two daughters. At the time of trial, the husband was 44 and the wife was 37.

When the couple first met, the husband was a medical school resident and the wife was a recent college graduate with a degree in recreation and tourism, earning about $28,000 per year as a sales representative. She continued to work for the same firm and her income later increased to $65,000.

The couple moved to New Jersey and the wife stopped working when she became pregnant. The husband opened his own dermatology practice in central New Jersey. The wife went back to work as an office manager and administrator for her husband's practice.

Starting in 2002, the wife began to experience mental and emotional problems. She saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with mania and anxiety. She was eventually hospitalized three times for her condition and diagnosed with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder.

The wife's psychiatrist testified that she might be able to get a job but expressed reservations about her ability to keep one due to her mood swings. He also testified that 80 to 85% of his patents with bipolar disorder were able to work.

The wife's vocational expert concluded that she was unemployable. The husband's expert testified that the wife's past employment history and demonstrated success showed that she was able to obtain employment.

The trial court judge awarded the wife limited duration alimony of $25,527 per month for the first two years and $24,403 per month for the next eight years, with alimony to stop when the couple's youngest child turned 18.

The trial court judge considered the thirteen alimony factors set forth in New Jersey law (N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b)) and found that permanent alimony wasn't justified in light of the term of the marriage, the wife's age, her failure to show a permanent disability, her ability to earn income in the future, and her success in past employment. The judge found that the wife could earn about $35,000 per year and also would have unearned income from the cash she would receive as an equitable distribution award of $650,000.

The wife didn't challenge the amount of the alimony, but said that it should have been permanent in light of her mental health problems.

The Appellate Division disagreed and upheld the trial court's award.

If you have questions about alimony or other family law or divorce issues in New Jersey, contact a New Jersey family law attorney at the Law Offices of Greenberg, Walden & Grossman, LLC. 

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